John McCain predicts Republican healthcare bill will fail

Unpopular bill further imperilled after senators returned to their states and faced constituents strongly opposed to it

A senior US Republican senator has predicted that the bill to roll back Obamacare would probably fail, adding to growing signs that the bill is in trouble.

My view is that its probably going to be dead, John McCain said on the CBS program Face the Nation.

The Senate bill, which faces unified Democratic opposition, has been further imperilled during a week-long recess where several Republican senators have had to return to their states and face constituents strongly opposed to it. Senators return to Washington on Monday.

The Senate bill keeps much of Obamacare intact but strips away most of its funding. It repeals most Obamacare taxes, overhauls the laws tax credits and ends its Medicaid expansion. It also goes beyond repealing Obamacare by cutting funding for the Medicaid program beginning in 2025.

The White House chief of staff, Reince Priebus, said on Sunday on Fox News that President Donald Trump expected Congress to pass a bill to repeal and replace Obamacare.

The Republican senator Ted Cruz on Sunday said failure to pass the bill was not an option and the Senate effort had to focus on lowering premiums. He pointed to an amendment he offered that is being scored by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, which assesses the impact of legislation.

Cruzs amendment would allow insurers to offer plans that do not comply with Obamacares mandate that they charge sick and healthy people the same rates and that they cover a set of essential health benefits, such as maternity care and prescription drugs, as long as they also offer plans that do comply with the regulations.

The amendment has drawn the support of conservative senators and groups, who say the it will help lower premiums. But moderate Republicans and outside critics say it will erode protections for people with pre-existing conditions and make their insurance unaffordable.

The Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, aims to hold a vote on the legislation, which needs the support of at least 50 of the Senates 52 Republicans, before a six-week recess that begins on 29 July.

Yet even McConnell cast doubt on the bills prospects for passage last week.

Speaking at a luncheon in his home state of Kentucky, McConnell said if Congress failed to follow through on a seven-year pledge to repeal Obamacare then it must act to shore up private health insurance markets, comments seen as providing a pathway to a bipartisan deal to fix the health system.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jul/10/john-mccain-predicts-republican-healthcare-bill-will-fail

Activists cry cowardice as Republican senators shut doors to healthcare town halls

Pat Toomeys closed-door talk saw him accused of not having the courage to speak to those affected, while Ted Cruz also faced dissent at his ticket-only event

At a town hall in Pennsylvania on Wednesday night, Republican senator Pat Toomey faced an angry protest over his role in the GOP healthcare bill, while Ted Cruz was heckled over his suggested amendment to the legislation at an event in Texas.

Scores of people gathered outside the ABC27 studio in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, where Toomey was holding what had been billed as a town hall meeting.

But in reality just eight audience members were allowed into the invite-only event, and their questions had been pre-screened by the news channel.

The closed-door approach did not endear Toomey to the sign-waving protesters outside, who accused the senator of not having courage to speak to people who would be personally affected by the Senate healthcare legislation he helped to write.

Cruz, meanwhile, was heckled at what in theory should have been a safe event; a ticket-only town hall veterans discussion hosted by Concerned Veterans for America a rightwing advocacy group financed by the Koch brothers.

Audience questions for Cruz at the event in McKinney, north of Dallas, had been screened in advance by the CVA, but two audience members went rogue to quiz and interrupt the Texas senator over his proposed tweak to the Senate bill.

The Better Care Reconciliation act, which the Congressional Budget Office says would leave an additional 22m people without healthcare, is currently stuck in the Senate without enough votes to pass. Cruzs amendment would allow insurance companies to sell plans that do not include the Affordable Care Act (ACA)-mandated essential health benefits, in a move he claims would reduce costs.

At the town hall, however, Cruzs adversaries repeatedly shouted him down as he attempted to defend his measure.

When you mandate what every policy has to cover you drive up the cost of insurance, Cruz said, which means fewer people can afford healthcare. The essential health benefits also made people pay for coverage that they dont necessarily want, he said.

Its all fine and good to mandate that everybody get coverage for everything at all times, but what happens in practice is the prices go so high that people are left out in the cold.

Ted
Ted Cruz also faced heckling at a ticket-only town hall event in Texas. Photograph: ddp USA/REX/Shutterstock

Some 1,300 miles to the north east, Toomey was being given a much easier ride from the eight attendees at his town hall. The majority of the questions from that crowd, as well as from small groups of people invited into the studios of three other ABC affiliates in Pennsylvania, focussed on healthcare, but there was no heckling and no follow-up questioning.

Asked about the damaging CBO score, Toomey accused the organization of bias and said that its calculations were based on wildly speculative assumptions that I think are extremely likely to come to pass.

Toomey denied that the process of drafting the bill which has no public hearings had been overly secretive, but was non-committal over whether he supported repealing the ACA without a replacement.

The senator was asked the question twice, both times saying that he believed the scenario was unlikely.

I just dont think there are enough votes in the senate to pass that, Toomey said. I just dont think its going to come to pass.

Meanwhile, outside the studio about a hundred people noisily protested both the senators role in the unpopular healthcare bill and his refusal to hold a truly public event.

We want Toomey to come home on his recess and actually speak with constituents, instead of doing telephone town halls or televised town halls where he doesnt have to interact with the people hes supposed to be representing, said Katey Dyck in a phone interview, who travelled two hours from her home in Fort Washington, just north of Philadelphia, to attend the protest.

Hes dismantling our healthcare system without having the courage to speak to people who would be personally affected.

Dyck travelled to Harrisburg with her two children and two friends, one of whom, Alison Fraser, was arrested after staging a sit-in at Toomeys Washington DC office last week.

There are issues with the ACA. There are things they can do to bring down costs, Fraser said.

But they cant just dismantle this bill that has really done so much to protect people, and make sure people arent discriminated against because of pre-existing conditions.

Also among the protesters was Josh Burkholder, a Democrat who ran unsuccessfully for US congress in Pennsylvanias fourth district last November.

Theyre giving a huge tax break to the 1% here, Burkholder said, also by phone, of the Senate legislation.

Its just awful. Making a giant tax break for the ultra rich while simultaneously pulling the rug out from under the poor of the country is just disgusting.

The majority of Senate Republicans have so far ducked interactions with the public during recess week supposedly a time for elected officials to return to their districts and meet with constituents.

The Washington Post reported that just four GOP senators planned to attend Fourth of July parades, while only three Cruz, Bill Cassidy from Louisiana and Jerry Moran from Kansas are scheduled to hold public town halls.

Cruz and Moran are openly opposed to the Senate bill while Cassidy has said he is concerned and has put forward an alternative to the plan.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jul/05/pat-toomey-ted-cruz-healthcare-bill-protest